The faerie (also fairy, fairie, fay, fae, fair folk) is a type of mythical being or legendary creature in European folklore, often described as metaphysical or supernatural.
Myths and stories about faeries do not have a single origin, but are rather a collection of folk tales from disparate sources. Various folk theories about the origins of faeries include casting them as either demoted angels, or demons with in Christian tradition; as minor Pagan deities; as spirits of the dead, as precursors to humans; or as elementals.
In their book Magical Folk: British and Irish Fairies, 500AD to the Present by Simon Young and Ceri Houlbrook, they suggest that faeries are not tutu-clad beings of folklore, but mischievous bed-hopping folk living in a dangerous parallel world. One tales is of a Cumbrian miner who was blessed by the faeries and able to find great mineral wealth. Until he shared his good fortune with others, angering the faeries and dying mysteriously not long after. Young quotes a register of deaths from parish records in the village of Lamplugh from the early 18th century, which lists four deaths as “frightened to death by fairies”. Also, one was led into a pond by Will o’ Wisp, and another died in a duel using “frying pan and pitchforks”.
From Beetham village a path climbs to Beetham fell and leads to the ‘Fairy Steps’. The second of two flights of stone steps, where the narrow passage squeezes between two sheer rock faces via a flight of natural stone stairs is so named because of legend – if you climb or descend the steps without touching the limestone sides of the narrow gully, faeries will grant you a wish. But only someone whose stature matches that of a faerie stands any chance of accomplishing this impossible feat, as in places the cleft is as narrow as 30cm at shoulder height. Not an easy achievement for someone of my 6’ 4” stature.
Kready, L. 1916 A Study of Fairy Tales. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company
Barnett, D. 2017 Beyond Disney: Why the bloodcurdling fairies of old were to be seriously feared
Cumberland and Westmorland Herald, 2006 Ullswater fairies, Orton ghost and Penrith giant
The faery folklorist, 2009 Cumbria – Castle Howe
Rowling, M. 1976. The Folklore of the Lake District
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